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Sexual Harassment

Submitted by gillian.edwards on Wed, 10/12/2016 - 10:57am

Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual attention, and can be verbal, written, graphic or physical. It creates an offensive or hostile learning, working or living environment and has both males and females as victims and perpetrators. It can occur between members of the opposite gender or the same gender, people of different status or the same status. It can happen to anyone and it's not your fault. 

What can I do if I think I'm being sexually harassed?

Individuals are often unsure if what they are experiencing is sexual harassment. If you are unsure, make an appointment to see the Protected Disclosure Advisor.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, it is not your fault. Nothing you have done or could do entitles another person to harass you. There are many ways of dealing with sexual harassment and the Protected Disclosure Advisor can help you select the best method.

Start by documenting what is happening. Carefully write down the dates, times, locations and details of all incidents.

One way of dealing with a harassing situation is to tell the harasser what it is that you find offensive and ask that the behaviour stop. Sometimes sexual harassment is a matter of miscommunication and if the behaviour is unintentional, communicating your discomfort may be enough to stop it. Be specific about the behaviour in question. For example:

“I feel uncomfortable when you put your arm around my shoulder. Please stop.”

“I need to talk to you about the remarks you make on my personal appearance at departmental meetings. I find them inappropriate and I need to you stop.”

However, it may be difficult to confront someone directly with sexual harassment concerns, particularly in situations involving a power differential. Do not feel that you have to handle the situation yourself before approaching anyone else. If you feel uncomfortable directly approaching your harasser, make an appointment with the Protected Disclosure Advisor or talk to the Dean or Director or administrative equivalent of your unit.

For more information about institutional resources, please visit the Sexual Violence Support website

How do I file a complaint?

You can either make a report or a formal complaint.

A report may be made by anyone to the Protected Disclosure Advisor. A report does not involve the recording of information which will identify the respondent or other individuals who might be mentioned. The name of the person(s) providing the report may also be unrecorded at their request.

A formal complaint of sexual harassment may be made in writing to the Protected Disclosure Advisor, or to a Dean or administrative equivalent. In the latter case, the Dean or administrative equivalent shall either refer the matter to the Protected Disclosure Advisor or report to the Protected Disclosure Advisor that the matter is being pursued at the faculty or the equivalent administrative unit level.  The Protected Disclosure Advisor will collaborate, consult or advise as requested with respect to any complaint of sexual harassment handled at the faculty or equivalent administrative unit level.

You can also contact Campus Security, 24/7, 7 day/week, if you would like to make a report, 403-220-5333.

What are some examples of sexual harassment?

Verbal Behaviour:

  • continuous idle chatter of a sexual nature and graphic sexual descriptions;
  • offensive and persistent risqué jokes or jesting, and kidding about sex or gender-specific traits;
  • suggestive or insulting sounds such as whistling, wolf-calls, or kissing sounds;
  • comments of a sexual nature about weight, body shape, size or figure;
  • pseudo-medical advice such as "You might be feeling bad because you didn't get enough" or "A little tender loving care (TLC) will cure your ailments";
  • staged whispers or mimicking of a sexual nature about the way a person walks, talks, sits, etc.;
  • derogatory or patronizing name calling;
  • innuendoes or taunting;
  • unwelcome remarks
  • rough and vulgar humour or language;
  • jokes that cause awkwardness or embarrassment;
  • gender-based insults or sexist remarks;
  • comments about a person's looks, dress, appearance, or sexual habits;
  • inquiries or comments about an individual's sex life and/or relationship with sex partner;
  • remarks about a woman's breasts, buttocks, vagina, and her overall figure;
  • speculations about a woman's virginity, her choice of sexual partner or practices;
  • verbal threats or abuse;
  • telephone calls with sexual overtones.

Gestures and Other Non-verbal Behaviour:

  • sexual looks such as leering and ogling with suggestive overtones;
  • licking lips or teeth;
  • holding or eating food provocatively;
  • lewd gestures, such as hand or sign language to denote sexual activity;
  • persistent and unwelcome flirting.

Visual Sexual Harassment:

  • display of pornographic or other offensive, derogatory, and/or sexually explicit pictures, photographs, cartoons, drawings, symbols, and other material;
  • display of girlie magazines;
  • showing of pornographic or sexually explicit movies or slides;
  • sexual exposure, such as dropping down pants in view of female employees.

Physical Behaviour:

  • touching that is inappropriate in the workplace such as patting, pinching, stroking or brushing up against the body;
  • hugging;
  • cornering or mauling;
  • invading another's "personal space";
  • attempted or actual kissing or fondling;
  • physical assaults;
  • coerced sexual intercourse;
  • attempted rape or rape.

Psychological Sexual Harassment:

  • repeated unwanted social invitations for dinner, drinks or movies;
  • relentless proposal of physical intimacy beginning with subtle hints which may lead to overt requests for dates and/or sexual intercourse;
  • sexual favours;
  • propositioning;
  • requiring to wear "sexist and revealing" or suggestive uniforms, material, or buttons.

Electronic (E-Mail) Harassment

  • sending personal and inappropriate messages;
  • sexual jokes;
  • graphic sexual descriptions;
  • unwelcome remarks;
  • vulgar humour or language;
  • display or pornographic or other offensive, derogatory, and/or sexually explicit pictures;
  • repeated unwanted invitations;
  • relentless proposals for physical intimacy; and
  • threats.

    * Adapted from Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Third Edition, by Arjun P. Aggarwal and Madhu M. Gupta.